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Fresh Start in the Fall

Fall can feel as much like a time of renewal as spring. Families reorganize their days to fit around school schedules. Churches have Fall “kickoff” events to reenergize the congregation after summer. Fall is also a great time to start or restart your group bible study.

It is a time when group members might be ready to tackle weightier topics. If this describes your group, I would recommend the twelve-session study “The Book of John: Finding Identity and Purpose”. This study will equip your small group to answer the call of God for their life. Another study that might be considered challenging to do is the book of Revelation. The new Beautiful Word study on Revelation taught by Margaret Feinberg is only six sessions and promises to bring this neglected book of the Bible to life.

Fall is a great time to do the study “Satisfied: Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption,” a six-session study that would be great to complete just as the consumer drive of the holidays begins to gear up. Pastor Jeff Manion teaches how to deal with issues of contentment, generosity, and living by comparison.

A “fresh start for Fall” study idea for couples is the five-session “From This Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage” taught by husband and wife Craig and Amy Groeschel. The study promises “if you make these commitments, you’ll discover a richer, deeper, more authentic relationship than you could have ever imagined.”

Regardless of the study you choose, we recommend a Fall kickoff event of your own with the group before beginning the study. Have a harvest dinner. Plan a Fall walk followed by apple cider. Help a local nonprofit with their Fall events and needs. Connect or re-connect with your group members for a great start to your Fall session.



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BIBLE STUDIES FOR THE MEN

Small groups have been part of church life for years  Lately, churches have seen the benefit of same-sex groups; brothers doing life with brothers in the faith for example.  If you are a leader of a men’s group, or belong to one and want to suggest studies for your group, this post is for you.

On this website, you will notice you can select studies based on categories.  Click on the Top 100 studies link and select “Men” under the “Filter by Audience” link on the right side of the page.  I want to highlight three of those DVD studies today.

The first study is “Seven Questions that Rattle in the Minds of Most Men.”   This seven-session study features all of life’s most pertinent questions as they apply to men, such as “who am I?” and “why am I here?”.  Led by John Woodall, North Point Church’s Director of Men’s Groups, this study is guaranteed to foster great discussion and spiritual growth.

The second, a six-session study, is John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul”.  It focuses on the hurts that build in men’s hearts over past wounds and the effects this has on their faith and life.  The study intends to examine and eradicate those wounds and help men live life by God’s design for them. 

The final study is “Fight: Winning the Battles that Matter Most” featuring Craig Groeschel.   This five-session study presents the story of Samson, a warrior with a weakness.   Your group will be studying the battles that matter and God’s design for how to fight them with the weapons He provides of faith, prayer, and God’s Word.

All three of these studies are designed to help men dispute the lies the world tells about who they are and how they were designed and offer God’s truth and powerful strength for their lives.

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Growing Together – Small Group Outing Ideas

Nothing will bond the members of a small group like group outings for outreach and fun. These events can offer casual time spent together truly getting to know each other.  Doing outreach in a group is always fun and leaves everyone feeling very good about the time spent.

Since summer is a great time for these types of activities, we wanted to share a few ideas with you.

The small nonprofits in your area can benefit from many hands.  First, poll your group to see what service areas interest them.  If no one has any to offer, suggest serving at a local food shelf, visiting with seniors, a Habitat for Humanity build, or doing a clean-up event for a nonprofit.  Check with area nonprofits to see what their needs might be and their rules and procedures around group service.  Small group members who know of seniors in need of yard work or house cleaning can serve as point persons to arrange those projects.

There is nothing better than combining both an outreach and a fun event.  Serve at your local food shelf and then go out for a meal.  Join in a local clean-up effort and then head to a brewery for some cold drinks. Do yard work for a neighbor in need and finish the day with a potluck at a member’s house.  With the busy schedules of your group members, finding one date to do both events may be easier than finding two dates to do the events separately.

We recommend planning an outing or outreach between each small group study you do.  At least consider doing them quarterly, or around significant holidays.  Don’t miss an opportunity to do a special gathering around important anniversaries for the group.

There are so many benefits to this type of time spent together.  It can feel less formal than the group study time, allowing people to relax and share about themselves and their lives. It can give group members insight into what types of causes members care about and perhaps learn why.  Travel time to and from events can be shared, giving even more time to get to know members better.  All these benefits build trust among group members. You will find that group members share more, both inside and outside of the study, coming together, growing in faith.  

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Top 5 New Bible Studies for Small Groups – 2021

As you know, at Small Group Advisor, we take our recommendations of bible studies very seriously. This means that we’ve spent the past couple weeks watching videos and assessing the companion study guides as we continue the quest to recommend only the best of the best for our site visitors/blog readers. During this process, we typically utilize the following criteria:

1) Must have sound teaching based on biblical principles and scripture
2) Must have DVDs/videos that are accessible to everyone (can be purchased if necessary)
3) Must have a study guide (we prefer ones that have personal homework at least 3 days per week)
4) Must have reasonable video length (we try not to recommend studies with videos over 30 minutes)
5) Must have an engaging and relatable teacher

So after reviewing nearly 25 studies, we narrowed it down to just 5 (published/released in 2021) that we deemed suitable to be included in our list of Top 100 best video bible studies for small groups.

So here our our Top 5 New Bible Studies for 2021:

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How To Be a Great Small Group Member

“The more you put into it, the more you get out of it” is a timeless saying.  It is also the basis of a successful small-group experience.  The foundation on which it’s built is the great command to “love God and love others”. (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV)  Following are some simple steps to help you put the most into your small-group experience.

Do the homework

You need to schedule consistent time each day to be in the Word.  That, more than the study questions, is the main goal of small group learning. Divide the week’s questions over at least five days.   If you leave them all to the night before you meet,  you won’t have time to spend time with God learning from Him.

Commit to be consistent

You honor your small group leader when you put the same emphasis on participation as your leader does.  Mark the meeting dates on your calendar.  Don’t allow anything except a crisis to cause you to skip.  Make the meetings a priority, even outreach or hospitality meetings. You aren’t only committing to meet with the small group, but with God.  (Matthew 18:20 NIV)   

Don’t make it all about you

Definitely share stories with the group that you believe will encourage others and fit with the topic of discussion.  But, leave room for others to speak if you are a more outgoing person. Make an effort to get to know your small group members. It is so important to make the most of hospitality time as a part of small group meetings so members can get to know and be supportive of each other.

Recognize different stages of growth

Small groups often come together by God’s leading, not to fit the criteria of the group leaders.  This means that some people will have been on the journey with God for a shorter time than others.  Encourage these brothers and sisters, and be careful not to make them feel inferior by “showing off” your knowledge.   God knows you know, and He knew you when you didn’t!

Pray

Small groups grow close through the sharing of prayer requests and through praying consistently for each other.  Make prayer for your small group members heartfelt and consistent. Don’t be shy to submit prayer requests or praise prayers of your own. Pray also for the health of the small group, and strength and protection for your leaders.

Come alongside your leaders

There are quiet members in every group.  Don’t make your leaders do all the heavy lifting to involve these members.   Encourage them with statements like,” Thanks for sharing that,” or  “I like what you said about…..” or “You’ve experienced that yourself, haven’t you?”   Help your leaders come up with ideas for outreach projects and hospitality opportunities.  Be engaged when they ask your opinion on future studies.  Do the work ahead of time so you are prepared to offer ideas.

Be open-minded

God did not make clones.  He made individuals with individual thoughts and experiences.  If you feel yourself shutting down mentally or emotionally because you don’t like the opinions of a group member, immediately call on Jesus.   Ask Him to help you hear, keep an open mind, and love.

“Over all these things put on love”

(Colossians 3:14NIV) A successful small group boils down to loving others, which we do because we love God.

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Loopholes Vs. Love

We are looking for loopholes and Jesus is looking for love.  

There are so many Bible stories about humans looking for a way around God.  This is not surprising when the world often teaches us to find the easy way.

Think of the man who asked Jesus how many times we should forgive, coming up with a number he deemed perfectly reasonable:  7.   Jesus blew that out of the water by telling him that we should forgive 70 X 7.  (Matthew 18:21-22)

Martha complained to Jesus about Mary not helping with the hospitality work.   But Jesus told Martha that Mary chose the better thing altogether – basically that the work would always be there, but He would not. (Luke 10:40-42)

The prodigal son had an angle, too.  He thought he would ask to be a slave when he wanted to return to the comfort of His father’s house.  He had no clue that God had something bigger in mind through his father:  total and complete love and forgiveness. (Luke 15:11-32)

We look for loopholes, too when it comes to studying God’s word.    We say we have responsibilities and are busy or tired.  Yet we have endless time for quick and easy distractions, faces glued to our screens.

God wants us to receive His love, love Him, and spread His love to the people in our lives.  It isn’t always easy to do that.  But, if we look for angles and workarounds to doing His will, we are the ones who will not live life to the fullest or receive all that God wants for us. (John 10:10)

If this idea of loopholes instead of loving speaks to you, here are a few great studies to focus on loving God.

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In the Middle of the Story

There is beauty in sharing your story, by faith, before it is resolved.  It tells others, “this has not been resolved, but I trust God.”    I learned this in a study by Lori Povich called “40 Verses to Ignite Your Faith”, so I wanted to recommend small group studies about it.  

Start off this plan with “In the Meantime” led by Andy Stanley.  As one Amazon reviewer said, “This study puts trials we all face into the right perspective, reminding us to focus on the character of God and what He is doing through our circumstances, not on the circumstances themselves or on our own perspective”.

In the middle of the story we need to to know who God is and why it is good to wait on Him. We need to have the kind of strong faith that is built in the middle. We need hope. which comes from a long view of our lives (an eternal one in fact).

For a stronger relationship with God in unsettled times, check out, “The Power of Knowing God” by Tony Evans.  It is a powerful look at real intimacy, relationship and knowledge of God.  You’ll see that the middle of your story is part of His bigger one, when you keep your eyes on Him.

Studies to build your faith include “Everything is Possible with God” by Rick Warren and “Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith” by Andy Stanley.  These are both on this website and would be excellent to study back to back.

Pete Wilson’s “Let Hope In,” would great to close out a series on living in the middle.  As it says in the description for this study:  “Embrace the freedom of being okay with not being okay.” That attitude is a hallmark of life in the middle of the story.

Doing these studies as part of a series, under the topic of living in the middle of your story, will take about half year.   As the pandemic enters its second year with more unknowns, even as there is increasing hope, many of us feel unresolved.  Knowing God, having faith in Him and hoping in Him can be a beautiful part of your walk with God,  before your story is resolved.

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Don’t Miss This! FREE Galatians Bible Study

Right now, you can do the “Galatians: Accepted and Free” bible study led by Jada Edwards for free. Normally you would need a paid subscription to Study Gateway. Don’t pass up this great opportunity!

We reviewed this study in our blog entitled “Following Jesus in the New Testament”. Sometimes, you can do a bible study, finish it, and shortly thereafter forget much of what you learned. That will not be the case with “Galatians: Accepted and Free”.

We recommended this study to friends and what we always hear back is “This is great!” or “Thank you for telling me about this!” and “We are enjoying this study so much!”


The study begins May 10th. It’s not too early to register and get all the freebies that come with this study. These are items you will engage with during the study and refer back to when it ends.

Register at: https://www.faithgateway.com/galatians-accepted-and-free-obs-registration/?utm_source=facebookauthorpost&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=galobs&utm_term=fgobs&utm_content=fb_jadaedwards

As it says in the promotional materials: Jada Edwards shows why it’s so important to know in the deepest recesses of your soul that you are wholly and fully accepted in Christ, by Christ and, through Christ. From your birth, God has called and chosen you — yes, you!

This study will give you hope and plant you on firm ground that can never be taken away – the love of God.

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Best New Bible Studies for 2020

COVID put a significant damper not only on social engagement, but also production companies in 2020.  Therefore, our usual study review was delayed because there simply weren’t many new bible studies for small groups released in 2020.  That said, we did find a few that we wanted to add to our list of Top 100 Best Video Bible Studies.

In August of 2020, Harvest House Publishers and RightNowMedia teamed up with Tony Evans to release The Power of Knowing God.   They released a book along with DVD/streaming videos and a companion study guide featuring the teaching of Tony Evans.  Well, Dr. Evans happens to be one of our favorite teachers here at Small Group Advisor.   His teaching style is authentic, straight-forward and filled with every day life analogies that we so appreciate.  This particular study poses some thought-provoking questions (especially for those of us that go to church every Sunday and go to bible studies during the week).  How well do we really KNOW God?  Do we really experience Him as our friend, heavenly Father and companion in every day life?   God wants to know you intimately and Dr. Evans helps open eyes as to how this can be achieved.

And then in November of 2020, author and bible study teacher, Lysa Terkeurst came out with Forgiving What You Can’t Forget: Discover How to Move On, Make Peace with Painful Memories, and Create a Life That’s Beautiful Again.  We here at SGA think this is her most vulnerable and personal study yet.   She has faced some significant pain and issues in her life over the past several years including marital problems and breast cancer.  And in this study, she is up front about the fact that it is beyond difficult to forgive people when you have suffered so much or when the person keeps inflicting pain.  This is the perfect study choice if you are stuck in an unresolved pain cycle or have people in your life that just don’t seem to get it and are unwilling to make things right.  God requires us to forgive and this study helps us figure out a way to do just that. 

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Following Jesus in the New Testament

Janice and I have been meeting in a weekly SKYPE-enabled bible study for almost two years. Our first meeting was in July, 2019. By the end of 2021 we hope to be near the halfway point of the 27 books of the New Testament. As we approach the two year anniversary of our virtual bible study, we wanted to review the studies we have done.

We decided in the beginning to work through the books of the New Testament so we could look back and know we had covered some ground in getting to know Jesus. When we approach the end of a study, we do ask God to guide us to the next one and pray over the one to do next. We sought studies that had us in the Word of God at least three to five days a week. This required that they have study guides that had us engaging with verses and asking ourselves personal faith maturing questions, as well as offering us ideas for application in daily living. The Apostle Paul wrote many of the books of the New Testament. We learned, after doing a couple of them in a row, to put space between each bible study that involved a book written by him, because he repeats many of his points and we wanted to come at them fresh each time we read them.

We studied (in New Testament book order, not the order we went through them, with links to video introductions):
· The Book of Mark with Francis Chan
· Determined: The Book of Luke with Heather Dixon
· The Book of 1 Corinthians with Jennie Allen
· Galatians: Accepted and Free with Jada Edwards
· The Book of Ephesians with J.D. Greear
· The Book of Philippians with Jo Saxton
· The Book of Colossians with Louie Giglio
· The Book of James with Francis Chan
· The Books of 1, 2 & 3 John with Tony Evans
· Jude with Jackie Perry Hill
· The Book of Titus with Chip Ingram (current study)

Our top five favorites from the studies we’ve done so far (and why) are:

#1) Jude by Jackie Hill Perry

We learned the most from this study. We remain amazed at how much content she gleaned from this smallest of the Gospel books. She does not hold back in her sermons, but puts sharing His truth over our comfort. Painful though this felt sometimes, it was also gratifying to know it meant our personal growth. More than that, she taught us to break down our bible reading to look for similar patterns in other books of the bible. Great discussions came out of this study. A study excels for us when it sends us searching for answers between weeks and this study did that for us weekly.


#2) Galatians: Accepted and Free by Jada Edwards

This study was a close second for us. The study guide was simple, but the questions made us look closely at our walk with God. And every week, Jada emphasized how much we are loved by God and how much that should direct our steps and our attitude. The videos are very engaging because they are filmed to make it feel as though we were sitting at home with her talking about Jesus. Jada emotes a sense of walking alongside her study companions with empathy and love, which comes across in the study guide, too.

#3) The Book of 1 Corinthians by Jennie Allen

This was our first study. Jennie Allen is a very engaging teacher, committed to helping her listeners see how much better life is in the face of difficulty, if we live for God. We loved that the filming of the videos had Jennie walking in the footsteps of Paul in southern Greece. She did a great job of applying biblical principles to everyday life. The study guide was a great mix of historical context and biblical wisdom. This is the first we did of the studies written especially for RightNowMedia.org and we highly recommend the format as a great way to do bible study.

#4) The Books of 123 John by Tony Evans

We loved this study so much, we can not wait for Pastor Evans to finish writing and recording the studies for the book of John. He does an amazing job of helping his listeners remember his teaching through analogies and word pictures. The study guide is similar to all RightNowMedia.org guides with homework that can be spread out over five days, ending with ways to apply what you learn. This study does not shy from asking convicting questions to help us grow in our walk with God, which is another reason it is memorable and impactful. This study is taught with the conviction of a wise, caring, but determined elder that offers a lot of grace, but doesn’t accept excuses when he knows that God offers us better than we can offer ourselves. Please note that the videos and study guide are available only through Right Now Media.

#5) The Book of James by Francis Chan

Be prepared to see your attitude and behavior change as you do this study. That is the way it was for us. Francis Chan is a passionate teacher of God’s word as it was spoken and written, not as we wish to hear it. This study is about true Christian living – not seeking only to be happy, but to be holy. The study guide questions walk the reader through plenty of context, but also ask meaningful questions like, “If you made this the “goal of your life,” to grow in holiness even if it meant suffering, how would that change your life?” We finished this study feeling like we had been with a true spiritual mentor teaching us truth about faith. Please note that the videos and study guide are available only through Right Now Media.

The two studies we felt we learned the least from were “Determined” ( based on the Gospel of Luke) by Heather Dixon and The Book of Philippians by Jo Saxton. These were obviously well-researched bible studies. So why didn’t they work for us? We did not feel as though we connected with either of the teachers. There did not seem to us to be a cohesion to the lessons or an overarching theme we could identify. We also agreed that the videos seemed to be more fluff than helpful teaching.

We can’t know how a study will go until we get into it. And when they are less than engaging we go to God and ask Him to help us learn anyway, when it is a struggle to do so from the teaching style or content. Even though each study did not bring us joy and may not have been stellar in presentation, teaching ability or content, we are excited to be walking on the path that Jesus walked.